Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Wayback Machine -- WWY(ou)D

Okay, this next roundtable is for the pulp writers and comic book writers again. Let's go into the wayback machine and talk about changing the industry from the beginning. WWYD (What would YOU do?)

If you could go back in time and change the publishing industry for pulp or comics (because they really do have so much in common, genre-wise), what would you change? What really drives you crazy and irks you about those old books you know and love?

Lee Houston Jr.: I would make sure there were more "contemporary" tales amongst the pulp characters of yesterday. That way,maybe not as many pulp stars from back then would be considered "period pieces" now, and perhaps we'd have more heroes from the past still active today. I would make sure that the original creators followed the practice of other trades and took on apprentices. That way, maybe today we would be still enjoying new adventures of such classics like Ellery Queen, Perry Mason, etc; despite the fact that their original creators have long since left us.

Josh Dahl: Simple change. I would take the current policy of putting the names of the creative team on the cover of the books and put it in place from day 1. More reader awareness that there people making the comics would give those people more importance and respect.

Van Allen Plexico: Creator rights from the beginning.

H. David Blalock: How could you change pulp to improve it? It got its name from the paper on which it was printed, its success from the audience it entertained. I'm not sure I would change anything except to encourage writers to produce more of it. There just isn't enough of it around.

Percival Constantine: The depiction of women, and unfortunately, it's not only a problem of a bygone era. Even today, it's difficult to find strong female characters. There have been recent efforts to change this: Barry Reese has created a very strong female pulp heroine in Gravedigger, and I've attempted it myself with my own New Pulp heroine, Elisa Hill. But far too often, women are depicted as overly-sexualized male fantasies.

Don Thomas:  Tone down the intentional and unintentional racism and misogyny several notches, amp up the sex and violence enough to make the Church Lady from Saturday Night Live's bygone days spontaneously explode.

I.A. Watson: In comics I'd head back to 1962, back when the Marvel Universe was just starting out, and make sure that there was at least one female founder superhero of the magnitude of Spidey, Thor, and Iron Man. That is, a female hero who wasn't someone's girlfriend, lone girl team-mate, sidekick, female version of a male hero, or established villainess reformed by a good man (so not the Invisible Girl, Marvel Girl, the Wasp, She-Hulk, Ms Marvel, or Black Widow). I'd make sure she had her own regular series so she'd be one of the charter Avengers.

Powers? I'd steal the telekenesis that Jean Grey had in the X-Men. That's a "headliner" power if its written right. Let Marvel Girl have some other mutant ability, phasing or teleporting or anything that meant she wasn't a weaker version of Charles Xavier.

Secret ID? Anything that doesn't involve a "girly" career like fashion designer, model, or nurse. I might be okay with her being Top Medical Doctor in the Marvel Universe since Don Blake was the weakest of the original secret IDs and telekenesis has some really useful surgical applications. Let Thor be Sigurd Jarlson and be Top Archeologist, which gives him more reason to find a buried hammer anyway. Or let the headliner female hero be Top Journalist, since Marvel doesn't really have one except Ben Urich.

While I'm at it I'd establish Morgana le Fey as an early and major villain, so that at least one of the top rank of Marvel baddies is female. She needs to be up there with Doom, Magneto, the Red Skull, Kang, the Mandarin etc. There's really no big-league mystic/magic baddie threat for the early Avengers except for their initial clash with Loki (Enchantress was mostly a minion). Morgana's got a different kind of magic and a different modus operandi to Baron Mordo, so she could offer a different brand of threat.

Even now, fifty-odd years on from the founding of the Marvel Universe, Marvel Comics still lacks any female hero with the same stature and prominence as their headliners like Iron Man and Cap. Their closest chances, Scarlet Witch and Captain Marvel/Photon, have both been sabotaged at various times. Dazzler isn't going to do it. And She-Hulk will always be the second-strongest one there is, or less.

Things aren't much better over at DC, but at least they have Wonder Woman.

Lee Houston Jr.: While I agree with Ian Watson about Marvel needing a strong female lead hero, I would set my sights on DC and attempt several things, like making sure Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster aren't robbed of Superman, Bill Finger and company get the recognition they deserve on Batman instead of everything being accredited to Bob Kane, and righting whatever other wrongs need to be fixed along the way, like DC not suing Fawcett over the "similarities" between Superman and Captain Marvel that eventually drove the latter company out of business.

When I reach the Silver Age, the first thing I would do is establish the Justice Society of America and the Justice League of America operating on the same Earth from the very start! Hopefully, this would eliminate, or at least lessen, the circumstances and death count of the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Once the Justice Society was re-established in the Silver Age, I would revive All Star Comics to give all the Golden Age characters at least some semblance of a home base; rotating JSA adventures with anthology style issues featuring individual characters.

Further more, I would have made Adventure Comics stayed a true anthology no matter what, even if that meant giving Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes, along with Supergirl, their own titles much sooner than they ever actually got them.

And Jack Kirby certainly would have been treated better if I ran the company when he was at DC. Then maybe he would have stayed at least long enough to finish his "Fourth World Saga" however he intended it to originally play out.

I would also like to see more genres still available in the comics, like science fiction and westerns.